- Cops and Former Secret Service Agents Ran Black Ops on Green Groups
- A private security firm has been spying on Greenpeace and other environmental groups for corporate clients.
- Who Sends Climate Distress Call
- Nations must make urgent preparations to cope with adverse health impacts of climate change that could kill millions, the World Health Organisation now says.
- Carbon Dioxide Emissions Increasing Rapidly
- Carbon dioxide emissions grew 3.1 percent a year between 2000 and 2006, more than twice the rate of growth during the 1990s.
- Hermaphrodite Frogs Found In Suburban Ponds
- New research has found that 21 percent of male green frogs, Rana clamitans, taken from suburban Connecticut ponds are hermaphrodites, with immature eggs growing in their testes.
- The Fifteen Minute Tip: Sizing Up Your Carbon Footprint
- What is your family's personal environmental impact and what does it cost?
- Toxic Socks
- Silver nanoparticles intended to control odor in socks are released in the wash.
- In Justice Shift, Corporate Deals Replace Trials
- The Justice Department has put off prosecuting more than 50 companies suspected of wrongdoing over the last three years. Instead, many companies have avoided the cost and stigma of defending themselves against criminal charges with a so- called deferred prosecution agreement. Legal experts say the tactic may have sent the wrong signal to corporations -- the promise, in effect, of a get-out-of-jail-free card.
From: Mother Jones
COPS AND FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENTS RAN BLACK
OPS ON GREEN GROUPS
By James Ridgeway
A private security company organized and managed by former Secret Service officers spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings. According to company documents
provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records -- donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos -- from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies.
In addition to focusing on environmentalists, the firm, Beckett Brown International (later called S2i), provided a range of services to a host of clients. According to its billing records
, BBI engaged in "intelligence collection" for Allied Waste; it conducted background checks and performed due diligence for the Carlyle Group, the Washington-based investment firm; it provided "protective services" for the National Rifle Association; it handled "crisis management" for the Gallo wine company and for Pirelli; it made sure that the Louis Dreyfus Group, the commodities firm, was not being bugged; it engaged in "information collection" for Wal-Mart; it conducted background checks for Patricia Duff, a Democratic Party fundraiser then involved in a divorce with billionaire Ronald Perelman; and for Mary Kay, BBI mounted "surveillance," and vetted Gayle Gaston, a top executive at the cosmetics company (and mother of actress Robin Wright Penn), retaining an expert to conduct a psychological assessment of her. Also listed as clients in BBI records: Halliburton and Monsanto.
Sidebar: Supporting Documents
August 20, 1998 Briefing (PDF
Daron Work Report (PDF
BBI Report for Ketchum (PDF
"Dow Global Tracking Team" Report (PDF
Florida PI's Dumpster-Diving Attempt (PDF
The "Glow-in-The-Dark Tacos" Emails (PDF
Handwritten Document With Greenpeace Door Codes (PDF
"Sat Surveillance" Outside Fenton's Home (PDF
Nestle Project Billing (PDF
"Our Operative Should Be Inquiring But Not Participatory" (PDF
Possible Target Addresses (PDF
Lawyer Doubts Dumpster-Diving's Legality (PDF
BBI, which was headquartered in Easton, Maryland, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, worked extensively, according to billing records
, for public-relations companies, including Ketchum, Nichols- Dezenhall Communications, and Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin. At the time, these PR outfits were servicing corporate clients fighting environmental organizations opposed to their products or actions. Ketchum, for example
, was working for Dow Chemical and Kraft Foods; Nichols-Dezenhall, according to BBI records, was working with Condea Vista, a chemical manufacturing firm that in 1994 leaked up to 47 million pounds of ethylene dichloride, a suspected carcinogen, into the Calcasieu River in Louisiana.
Like other firms specializing in snooping, Beckett Brown turned to garbage swiping
as a key tactic. BBI officials and contractors routinely conducted what the firm referred to as "D-line" operations, in which its operatives would seek access to the trash of a target, with the hope of finding useful documents. One midnight raid targeted Greenpeace. One BBI document
lists the addresses of several other environmental groups as "possible sites" for operations: the National Environmental Trust, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Media Services, the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization run by Lois Gibbs, famous for exposing the toxic dangers of New York's Love Canal. For its rubbish-rifling operations, BBI employed a police officer in the District of Columbia and a former member of the Maryland state police.
Beckett Brown's efforts to penetrate environmental groups and other targets came to an end when the business essentially dissolved in 2001 amid infighting between the principals. But the firm's officials went on to work in other security firms that remain active today.
Beckett Brown International began when John C. Dodd III met Richard Beckett at a bar in Easton in 1994. Dodd had recently become a millionaire after his father had sold an Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship on Maryland's eastern shore. Beckett ran a local executive recruiting and consulting business. Soon after they met, according to Dodd, Beckett introduced him to Paul Rakowski, a recently retired Secret Service agent, who had put in two decades protecting presidents and foreign heads of state and had become regional manager of the agency's financial crimes division. Rakowski told Dodd he had an idea for a new security business.
Dodd subsequently received a fax of a business plan for the new company. The sender's address at the top of the fax, according to Dodd, read: "11/02/94 USSS Financial Crimes Division/Forgery" -- which suggested it had come from a Secret Service office. But Dodd was reluctant to put in the start-up money for the enterprise, because he didn't know who all the partners were. To impress him, Dodd says, Rakowski and his former Secret Service colleagues began taking him and his friends on special tours of the White House. "This wasn't a White House tour conducted by tour guides," he says. "They would take us... to areas that said 'Do not pass this line.'"
At one point, Dodd says, a senior Secret Service agent named Joseph Masonis arranged for him to tour a Secret Service facility. "To encourage me to invest in this company," Dodd notes, "they all said 'why not go up to technical security headquarters [of the Secret Service] and you will get an exclusive tour.'...They showed me everything....They were worried about someone flying way up high in a plane, miles from the White House, jumping out of a plane, skydiving, popping the chute and getting on the White House grounds without anybody knowing it. They were working on the technology to pick that up." Dodd says he was blown away by what he saw. (Masonis says, "I have never taken Mr. Dodd to any facility in D.C.") And at a waterfront party, Dodd says, he was introduced to and deeply impressed by George Ferris, another Secret Service officer and an expert in demolitions.
Eventually, Dodd says, he agreed to be the sole investor of the new firm, and he put up $170,000, the first of what would be several loans at 15 percent interest. (His investment in the firm, Dodd estimates, would grow to a total of $700,000.) The company was officially launched in August 1995, named after Beckett and Sam Brown, a lawyer who helped get it started. Rakowski, Masonis, and Ferris were officials in the firm.
Business was good. In early 1997, Beckett Brown provided security services for Bill Clinton's second inauguration, landing a contract worth nearly $300,000. Early clients also included Phillip Morris, Mary Kay, Browning-Ferris Industries, and Nichols-Dezenhall, a Washington-based firm founded in 1987 by Nick Nichols and Eric Dezenhall that specialized in crisis communications, particularly for corporations involved in biotechnology, product safety, and environmental controversies. BBI provided protection for retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, Dodd says, and there was talk it might also get a job to guard the Rolling Stones.
"Alley is locked by iron gates. 7 dumpsters in alley -- take your pick."
By 1998, BBI had 22 employees working in five different divisions, along with subcontractors that it hired as operatives. The company also looked abroad for new opportunities and recruited more law enforcement and intelligence veterans. David Bresett, a former chief of the Secret Service's foreign intelligence branch, joined the firm as a vice president. (A company biography noted that Bresett, while detailed to the CIA, had directed the investigation that identified the terrorists who blew up Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.) The firm retained Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, and earlier one of the government officials responsible for overseeing U.S. support of the Nicaraguan contras, as a consultant at $75,000 a year. "I did due diligence on a couple of customers," Cannistraro recalls. On the advice of Cannistraro and Bresett, BBI turned down a $1 million job with the Church of Scientology, according to Dodd. (Bresett did not respond to a message asking for comment.) At one point, an employee named Tim Ward
, who had been a sergeant in the Maryland state police, traveled to Saudi Arabia for the company, according to Dodd.
Phil Giraldi, a former CIA officer, was also on the payroll. According to Giraldi, there was not a lot of work for him and Cannistraro. "We would go to a company like Enron and see if they had any issues if they were looking to acquire a company," he recalled. "See if the [company to be acquired] is connected to the Russia mob. That's what we were selling. We were not very successful." Giraldi left the firm in 1999. By then, he had become aware of the firm's more unconventional activities: "Scooping garbage, trying to get penetrations of companies and environmental groups. I didn't know a lot of the details." But, he says, he knew BBI was "working on Greenpeace."
In 2000, the firm -- which had changed its name to S2i after Richard Beckett left the company -- was targeting a group of activist organizations opposed to genetically engineered food that had formed a coalition called GE Food Alert. In the fall of 2000, with these groups poised to assail Taco Bell, S2i operatives got on the case.
Their thoughts soon turned to garbage.
On September 26, Jay Bly, a former Secret Service agent working for S2i, sent an email
to Tim Ward, the former Maryland state trooper on the payroll:
Received a call from Ketchum yesterday afternoon re three sites in DC. It seems Taco Bell turned out some product made from bioengineered corn. The chemicals used on the corn have not been approved for human consumption. Hence Taco Bell produced potential glow-in-the-dark tacos. Taco Bell is owned by Kraft. The Ketchum Office, New York, has the ball. They suspect the initiative is being generated from one of three places:
1.Center for Food Safety, 7th & Penn SE
2.Friends of the Earth, 1025 Vermont Ave (Between K & L Streets)
3.GE Food Alert, 1200 18th St NW (18th & M) #1 is located on 3rd floor. Main entrance is key card. Alley is locked by iron gates. 7 dempsters [sic] in alley -- take your pick. #2 is in the same building as Chile Embassy. Armed guard in lobby & cameras everywhere. There is a dumpster in the alley behind the building. Don't know if it is tied to bldg. or a neighborhood property. Cameras everywhere. #3 is doable but behind locked iron gates at rear of bldg.
In this email, Bly explained the urgency and the goal: "Apparently there is an article or press release due out next week and [Ketchum] would like some pre release information." He then turned practical: "I want to send Sarah [another BBI employee] to site #1 for a job inquiry. She can see how big the offices are and get the lay of the land. Maybe this will narrow the field. If they have a job opening could she work there for two or three days to find out what's going on?" The Friends of the Earth site, he noted, would be tougher to penetrate. As for the garbage of GE Food Alert, Bly had a plan: "if we can get some help from our friends who ride the truck. The alley is tight. I think the truck can drive down the alley but the container probably is rolled out and dumped. Looks like one dumpster for the building. I'm sitting on the building at 4:00 am tomorrow morning (if Ketchum gives us a budget)." And Bly noted that there were other possible opportunities: "we have found some other affiliates with the above groups. We are looking for their locations in [Washington, D.C.] and hopefully a more S2i friendly site."
The following day, Bly emailed Ward about his early morning surveillance:
Re: Dumpster Dive.
I got hold of Jim Daron [a Washington police officer working for BBI] yesterday. He was supposed to do Vermont Ave and Penn Ave SE last night. I have not heard from him today -- what's new. I did 18th St. Weard [sic] set up -- the dumpster is behind locked gates. The truck drives down the alley and rings for the night guard to open the gate. The guard comes out, unlocks and goes back into the building (probably pissed off because they woke him up), the guys walk the bags out to the truck one at a time. When they finish they locked the gate behind them. There was so much trash they had to compact the truck two times while they were there. I did not find anything from the 5th floor, but the good news is it's doable.
On September 28,Ward responded:
Good news! Think that once Jim [Daron] calls you back we will know where we stand. If he can't get in with the shield, it will be difficult at sight #1. I think #2 we can do regardless. The issue is a hot one in general. I've been following it from here. Don't forget our GP [Greenpeace] boy in Baltimore has been handling the work for GP. It may be worth a check in the city. Maybe one of our BPD [Baltimore Police Department] guys can hit that one. When you talk with the client push the fact that their client (the cheese people)...should put together a trend tracking program for the future. The anti's now have found an exposed corporate target and they will be back for more blood.
This email appears to suggests that the Beckett Brown operatives were considering using a Washington police officer's badge to gain access to the garbage of the Center for Food Safety. And Ward was apparently hoping that Beckett Brown could persuade Ketchum to hire the company to monitor the ongoing activity of the activists opposed to genetically-engineered food.
These emails do not indicate whether Beckett Brown succeeded in scooping valuable intelligence from the garbage at these three sites. But Beckett Brown had already managed to penetrate the anti-GE food network. In a 1999 report to Ketchum -- entitled "Intelligence Analysis for Dow Global Trends Tracking Team" -- BBI described in detail a strategy session held by 35 representatives of various environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, US PIRG, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The report noted the targets the coalition was considering (Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, the Grocery Manufacturers of America) and listed various tactics the group had discussed. Such strategy meetings of this coalition were confidential, according to Dale Wiehoff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Neither Bly nor Ward would discuss this series of emails or any of the work they did for Beckett Brown or S2i. "Legally, I can't tell you anything about what the company did," Ward says. He accuses Dodd of trying to "besmirch the names of the people involved" in the company. Rakowski, Daron, and Beckett did not reply to requests for comments. Nor did Ketchum. A spokesman for Kraft says, "After a review of our historical procurement files, we have no record of work on or about Sept. 26, 2000, with either Ketchum, Beckett Brown International or S2i. In the late '90s, Ketchum provided some PR services to Kraft for one of our coffee brands. However, Ketchum does not currently provide Time and again, according to Beckett Brown records, the firm looked to trash for intelligence. These trash runs at one point did raise concern within the company. In 1998, David Queen, a senior vice president, sent Rakowski a memo about "dumpster diving." Queen, a former deputy assistant secretary of the treasury and once a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania, noted that in certain instances searching trash could raise "some troublesome issues," including possible violation of state trespass laws and "possible violation of trade secrets laws." He concluded, "If BBI expects to use this method of information gathering, it would be prudent to get the opinion of outside counsel which could be relied upon by BBI should there be future litigation directed against BBI."
Whether or not BBI sought counsel, the dumpster diving continued. In November 1999, according to company documents, Jay Bly traveled to St. Augustine, Florida, to meet with a private detective. He told the investigator that BBI wanted to obtain garbage from the offices of Whetstone Chocolates, a locally based candy manufacturer. (According to BBI billing records
, BBI at the time was working for Nichols- Dezenhall on a "Nestle Project-Florida." At press time, Nestle had not responded to a request for comment.) This private investigator and another local gumshoe then tracked the garbage men who made pick-ups at Whetstone and tried to persuade one of the drivers to turn over the trash from Whetstone. The trash collectors wouldn't cooperate. A month later, another private investigator apparently attempted to grab the garbage himself. He sent Bly a fax reporting, "We made a pickup run on December 23,1999 as requested. We were unable to enter the area where the dumpster is located as there appeared to [be] a company party taking place in the break area located in front of the dumpster. We remained in the area for a short time, however, the party continued and we departed the area." A December 1, 1999, BBI briefing paper on a "Nichols-Dezenhall/St. Augustine Project" reported on activities within Whetstone and said that "BBI now has operative in place."
Eric Dezenhall says that he cannot identify clients or vendors with which his firm worked. But he notes in an email that he never saw the briefing paper referring to a BBI operative and Whetstone and that "we would not have been involved in any infiltration operation." He adds, "Nichols-Dezenhall Communications never authorized, directed, or was informed of unethical or illegal activities by forensic investigators employed on any project we have worked on. With regard to our work on matters in which we were teamed with investigators, we are aware only of information-gathering through public records checks and other legitimate means." Dezenhall says that "any use of an 'operative' to infiltrate a company...would be counter to our business interests and any information gathered in that manner would be unusable in court."
(In 2003, Dezenhall bought out Nichols and renamed the company Dezenhall Resources. "Our client base and employees from the 1990s have turned over almost entirely," Dezenhall says. According to a source familiar with the firm's current operations, the company has moved away from handling corporations involved in environmental controversies.) Another target of BBI's trash men was Fenton Communications, the liberal PR firm headed by David Fenton that for years has assisted environmental causes. On December 8, 1999, a BBI operative, according to an internal report
, "sat surveillance" at Fenton's Washington home, beginning at 2:50 am. In the report, the operative noted the time of the morning garbage pick-up and that he returned to the office to "sort material" and "analyze." BBI ran background checks on both Fenton and his then-wife. The company's files contained photographs of their house as well as client lists, billing information, and personnel information from Fenton Communications. Between July 1998 and February 2001, Fenton says, his firm experienced several break-ins, during which boxes of files and two laptops were stolen. The culprits were never caught.
"It was Mission Impossible-like."
Greenpeace was the target of one of BBI's more elaborate -- and cinematic -- intelligence-gathering efforts, according to company documents
and an interview with an eyewitness. Jennifer Trapnell, who was dating Ward in the late 1990s, recalls an evening when she accompanied Ward on a job in Washington D.C. "He said they were trying to get some stuff on Greenpeace," she says. Ward wore black clothes and had told her to dress all in black, too: "It was Mission Impossible-like." In Washington, Ward parked his truck in an alley, she remembers, and told her to stay in the truck and keep a lookout. In the alley, he met a couple of other men, whose faces Trapnell did not see clearly. Ward was talking on a walkie-talkie with others, and they all walked off. About an hour later, the men came back and placed two trash bags in Ward's car. Trapnell says she didn't know what they did with the bags -- and Ward never explained. In addition to Ward's work, on several occasions in 2000, Jim Daron, the Washington cop who also worked for BBI, submitted reports to BBI for surveillance of Greenpeace's offices.
BBI gathered numerous internal Greenpeace documents, including financial reports. It also obtained the instructions for using the security system at Greenpeace's offices. And the Greenpeace files at BBI included a handwritten document that appears to record attempts to crack the security codes on entry doors with notations such as "codes do not match" and "open."
BBI prepared reports on Greenpeace -- based on "confidential sources" -- for Ketchum. In at least one case, according to Rick Hind, legislative director for Greenpeace (who reviewed these reports at Mother Jones' request), a BBI report written for Ketchum contained information tightly held within the group about planned upcoming events. And a December 2, 1999 BBI report (which does not mention Ketchum) noted that Greenpeace had chosen Kellogg's, Kraft, and Quaker as "their main targets in the GE campaign," that it was developing a campaign tactic called "Food-Aid Expose" (which would highlight the export of genetically-modified foods to other countries), and that it was helping a Wall Street Journal reporter track food companies involved in the debate over genetically-engineered foods.
Over the years, Greenpeace has repeatedly been the target of public relations firms working for industry, and the group has experienced burglaries and caught would-be spies posing as students seeking employment. But Greenpeace officials say they did not know that their organization was under surveillance during that period of time.
In the late 1990s, Greenpeace was working with environmental groups in the stretch of Louisiana dubbed "Cancer Alley," organizing against various forms of industry pollution. Its work there and that of its Louisiana partners became another target for BBI. In 1998, according to BBI emails, correspondence, and records, BBI retained Mary Lou Sapone, a self-described "research consultant," who recruited a paid operative in Louisiana to infiltrate an environmental group called CLEAN. Sapone had something of a talent for infiltrating activist groups. In the late 1980s, working for a security firm called Perceptions International, which was, in turn, working for the U.S. Surgical Corporation, she penetrated a Connecticut-based animal-rights group, gathering evidence on an activist who would later serve jail time for planting a pipe bomb near the parking space of the company's CEO. The activist would eventually accused Sapone of coaxing her into the plot.
Sapone's operative in Louisiana relayed to her information on what the local enviros were planning, provided gossip on the internal rivalries, and identified the scientists aiding the groups. She passed the intelligence to BBI. In an August 20, 1998 "client briefing," BBI boasted that "our operative is being nominated to the citizen action panels for local industries" and it asked which local industry Condea Vista, the chemical manufacturing firm, would prefer the operative to focus on. (The previous year, Condea Vista had lost a lawsuit brought by the residents of Lake Charles, Louisiana, against the company for the 1994 ethylene dichloride leak and had been slapped with a $7 million judgment.) Another BBI document noted, "The operative has been trained to be inquiring, but not participatory. Operatives are not allowed to offer suggestions or 'help' targets in any way. They are trained to seek documents, ID friends and foe legislators and regulators, follow money trails, ID informants, discover future targets."
BBI produced detailed confidential reports for Ketchum on the environmental activism underway in Louisiana. And BBI records indicate that the firm worked for Nichols-Dezenhall on a "Condea Vista Project." Citing "strict confidentiality agreements," Dezenhall will not say whether his firm worked with Condea Vista (or any other company), but he notes in an email, "It would be extremely damaging and wrong...to interpret or portray the term 'operative,' a generic term often used by investigators and former law enforcement types to mean an individual, as implying someone necessarily engaged in illicit actions such as corporate espionage." (Sapone did not respond to a message requesting comment.)
Penetrating a citizens group was not a new endeavor for BBI. In 1996 and 1997 in northern California, where Browning-Ferris Industries was engaged in a battle over the future of a garbage dump, BBI conducted what its records labeled "covert monitoring" and "intelligence gathering" on the North Valley Coalition, a citizens group opposed to the Browning-Ferris project. In September 1997, BBI received a payment of $198,881.05 from BFI.
The firm's Obama connection.
BBI fell apart in 2001 amid arguments over the company's finances. "It was not a happy company," says Phil Giraldi, the ex-CIA man who had worked there, adding, "I have worked for a number of security companies. Some are ethical, some are not. Beckett Brown was not especially so." When the company was collapsing, Dodd says, he heard that document shredding was underway in its offices, and one weekend he went to the offices and carted off scores of cartons stuffed with records.
BBI's demise led to a lawsuit. Dodd sued Rakowski, Ward, Bly and two others, claiming they had engaged in fraud. In a pretrial statement, Dodd accused them of having "dipped into the Company's coffers for generous salaries, commissions, bonuses, loans, benefits and unsupported expense reimbursements, all the while presenting false and misleading financial information" to Dodd. In 2005, after a month-long trial in Maryland's Talbot County Circuit Court, Dodd lost. He now was out the $700,000 he had invested in the company. By his own estimate, he had spent over a million dollars in legal fees. And he was mad. He claims that he only learned of the firm's sleazier actions after the company imploded and that his lawyers encouraged him not to raise that issue as part of his lawsuit. But after the trial was done, Dodd began contacting some of BBI's targets and shared its records with them. "I wanted the facts to come out," he says. "I feel terrible that my money was used to screw these people over."
Today, boxes and boxes of BBI records
sit in warehouse space Dodd rents. Dodd has not gone through all of the material. (The records include internal and confidential financial reports of a local bank that had been the subject of a takeover.) Much of what BBI did remains a mystery to Dodd. A law firm representing the Mars candy corporation pored over all the records, according to Dodd and his lawyer, apparently in search of evidence that Mars had been the target of corporate espionage. (The files contain records indicating that BBI obtained information on the phone calls made by a PR man working with Mars.) Then Dodd heard nothing further from this law firm. Dodd says he would be delighted to testify before Congress about BBI -- but no one has invited him to do so.
As for BBI's principals, they are still operating. Tim Ward now runs a security firm called Chesapeake Strategies, which bills itself as "a multinational security and investigative firm comprised of professionals with extensive security experience." Jay Bly works there. Its website boasts that it maintains affiliated offices in Paris, Beijng, Tokyo, Qatar, and Kuwait and that "many team members continue to hold Secret and Top Secret government security clearances." The firm has been active in protecting research facilities from animal-rights activists. In 2002, it won a contract from the General Services Administration "for recreational, hospitality, law enforcement, facilities, industrial and environmental services and products." It was listed on a 2005 line-up of Defense Department contractors. "I don't have any comment about what I am currently doing or what I plan to do," Ward says.
Joseph Masonis works for the Annapolis Group, a security firm. Its website notes that the company's managing directors "have over forty- five years of combined experience with the United States Secret Service." Paul Rakowski married Amy DiGeso, who was CEO of Mary Kay when BBI worked for the cosmetics firm. (Currently, she is a top executive at Estee Lauder.) Rakowski's current occupation -- if he has one -- is not publicly known.
Richard Beckett is now CEO of Maryland-based Global Security Services, which, according to its website, offers clients a "suite of business solutions" that includes "intelligence services," "disaster management," "information systems security," and "paramilitary operations." Last year, his firm provided bodyguards to Senator Barack Obama.
James Ridgeway is Mother Jones' Senior Washington Correspondent.
Copyright 2008" The Foundation for National Progress
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From: Financial Times (London, U.K.)
WHO SENDS CLIMATE DISTRESS CALL
By Frances Williams in Geneva
Countries must make urgent preparations to cope with adverse health impacts of climate change that could kill millions, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.
Rising global temperatures threatened more deaths and disease from malnutrition, storms and floods, water shortages, heat waves and pollution, and insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, the UN agency said.
"The core concern is succinctly stated: climate change endangers human health," Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement to mark World Health Day. "While the reality of climate change can no longer be doubted, the magnitude of consequences, and most especially for health, can still be reduced."
Poorer nations needed help to shore up fragile health systems and better systems for disease surveillance and forecasting. She urged leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations to address this at their Japan summit next month.
Estimates of health impact of climate change vary, but there is widespread agreement at a global level they will be negative, substantial and affect developing countries most severely.
In a November report, the UN development programme said 600m more people in sub-Saharan Africa would go hungry from collapsing agriculture. Another 400m people would be exposed to malaria and other diseases.
Malnutrition causes about 3.5m deaths each year. Periodic drought, a main cause, is to increase. Extreme weather, especially storms and floods, threatens more deaths and injuries, and outbreaks such as cholera.
Water scarcity and torrential rainfall increase the risk of diarrhoeal disease. Changing temperatures and rainfall patterns will spread malarial mosquitoes and other insect vectors.
Heatwaves in crowded urban "heat islands" could kill many elderly, as during the European heatwave of 2003, and aggravate allergies -- such as hay fever -- and atmospheric pollution.
"Climate change can affect problems that are already huge, largely concentrated in the developing world, and difficult to combat," Dr Chan said.
Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008
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From: Earth Policy Institute
CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS INCREASING RAPIDLY
By Frances C. Moore
Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels stood at a record 8.38 gigatons of carbon (GtC) in 2006, 20 percent above the level in 2000. Emissions grew 3.1 percent a year between 2000 and 2006, more than twice the rate of growth during the 1990s. Carbon dioxide emissions have been growing steadily for 200 years, since fossil fuel burning began on a large scale at the start of the Industrial Revolution. But the growth in emissions is now accelerating despite unambiguous evidence that carbon dioxide is warming the planet and disrupting ecosystems around the globe.
In 2000, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) laid out projections of how greenhouse gas emissions were likely to evolve during the twenty-first century due to economic, demographic, and technological changes. The high-end scenario combined rapid economic growth and globalization with intensive fossil fuel use and was used as the IPCC's upper limit for estimates of future climate change in its recent 2007 report. Yet this upper-limit projection predicted annual emissions growth of only 2.3 percent between 2000 and 2010 -- far less than the 3.1 percent annual increase observed so far this century. With CO2 emissions currently exceeding the worst-case scenario, we can expect that temperature and sea level rise will likely do the same.
Five countries are responsible for over half of fossil-fuel-related CO2 emissions, and the United States and China alone account for more than a third. The United States has been the world's largest emitter for over a century, releasing 1.66 GtC in 2006, or 19.8 percent of global emissions. It is now closely followed by China, where growth in emissions has been driven by a rapid increase in coal consumption -- China is currently opening an average of two coal-fired power plants a week. Emissions in China have more than doubled since 1990, reaching 1.48 GtC in 2006, or 17.7 percent of the world total. Analysts expect that China will overtake the United States to become the world's largest emitter before 2009.
The other countries in the top five are Russia, India, and Japan, respectively accounting for 5.2, 4.7, and 4.1 percent of global CO2 emissions. (See figure
.) Of these, India has had the fastest growth in emissions, which have tripled since 1981. The increase in emissions from India and China reflects the rapid industrialization and economic growth currently happening throughout Asia. Since 2000, carbon dioxide emissions in Asia have grown five times faster than emissions in the rest of the world. The region, which produced less then 10 percent of global emissions in 1970, now accounts for almost a third of the world total.
These national and regional numbers mask huge differences in per capita CO2 emissions. After the tiny nations of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Singapore, the United States has the largest per capita emissions in the world. (See data
.) At 5.5 tons of carbon, per person U.S. emissions are almost five times greater than those in China, and almost 200 times greater than those in the poorest countries in the world. The United Nations calculates that an average air-conditioner in Florida is responsible for more CO2 every year than a person in Cambodia is in a lifetime, and that a dishwashing machine in Europe annually emits as much as three Ethiopians.
In general, richer countries have higher per capita emissions, but important examples show that emissions do not have to be correlated with standard of living. California, where the average income is well above the U.S. mean, still has per capita emissions just over half the national average. Many countries in Europe also have per capita emissions less than half those in the United States and yet still have a comparable standard of living.
Fossil fuel burning is not the only source of carbon dioxide emissions. Currently, roughly 2 gigatons of carbon are released every year as forests are logged for timber or burned to provide agricultural land or pasture. Deforestation is most severe in Indonesia and Brazil, countries with some of the largest remaining stands of tropical rainforest. (See data
.) Together, these two countries account for more than half of emissions from land-use change.
Carbon dioxide from both fossil fuel burning and deforestation is accumulating in the atmosphere. Ice core records indicate that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere now than at any point in the last 650,000 years. In 2007, the atmospheric CO2 concentration was 384 parts per million (ppm), up from 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Between 2000 and 2007, atmospheric CO2 concentration grew by an average of 2 ppm per year, the fastest seven- year increase since continuous monitoring began in 1959. (See figure
Only about half of the CO2 released into the atmosphere every year actually remains there, as at least 45 percent is rapidly removed by carbon sinks such as plants and the ocean. As carbon dioxide emissions grow and the planet warms, however, studies suggest that these sinks will begin to saturate and will be unable to continue taking up the same share of emissions. Carbon dioxide is less soluble in a warmer ocean, for example, and warmer soils tend to hold less carbon, so as temperatures rise, a smaller proportion of CO2 emissions will be taken up by land and ocean sinks. A detailed examination of the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 concentration published in late 2007 suggested that a slowdown in sink uptake may already be occurring -- much earlier than scientists had anticipated.
Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, in combination with other greenhouse gases, have already raised global average temperature by 0.8 degrees Celsius, with more than two thirds of that increase coming since 1980. This warming is already affecting natural systems around the world: climate scientists have documented trends of more heat waves, longer and more-intense droughts, higher sea level, more- frequent heavy rain events, and stronger hurricanes. Increasing CO2 levels are also acidifying the ocean, making survival more difficult for organisms such as coral that use calcium carbonate to form their structure. The pH (a measure of acidity where a lower value indicates more acidic conditions) of the surface ocean has already decreased by 0.1 points and could drop a further 0.3-0.4 points by 2100 if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced. This would threaten the existence of organisms that play key roles in the marine ecosystem.
The IPCC projects that without policy measures to address global warming, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning could more than double between 2000 and 2030, a trajectory that would make it almost impossible to avoid a temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Increasing evidence suggests that even a warming of less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures would constitute "dangerous" climate change, something nations have already committed to avoid under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
It is clear that to prevent the most serious and irreversible effects of climate change, the world must act swiftly to substantially cut emissions. Energy efficiency measures and existing technologies such as wind power and plug-in hybrid electric cars, combined with programs to protect and restore the world's forests could cut net global carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2020, a goal outlined in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
by Lester R. Brown. Putting this plan into action would halt and reverse the longstanding trend of growing carbon dioxide emissions. ADDITIONAL DATA
Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning, 1751-2006 (figure
Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning, 1950-2006 (figure
Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning in Top Ten Countries, 2006 (figure
Carbon Dioxide Emissions Per Person for Top Ten Countries and the World, 2006 (table
Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning by Sector, 2004 (figure
Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Land Use Change and Forestry in Top Ten Countries, 2000 (table
Atmospheric Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide, 1000-2007 (figure
To return to the Index of Eco-Economy Indicators, click here
For more information related to CARBON EMISSIONS from Earth Policy Institute, click here
Copyright 2008 Earth Policy Institute
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From: New York Times
HERMAPHRODITE FROGS FOUND IN SUBURBAN PONDS
By Felicity Barringer
Common frogs that make their homes in suburban areas are more likely than their rural counterparts to develop the reproductive abnormalities previously found in fish in the Potomac and Mississippi Rivers, according to the study by David Skelly, a professor of ecology at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Dr. Skelly's research found that 21 percent of male green frogs, Rana clamitans, taken from suburban Connecticut ponds are hermaphrodites, with immature eggs growing in their testes.
The study is the latest in a decade's worth of research that has found intersex characteristics in water-dwelling species like sharp-tooth catfish in South Africa, small-mouth bass on the Potomac and shovelnose sturgeon in the Mississippi.
Previous studies, particularly those by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and in the West Virginia office of the United States Geological Survey, suggested a strong link between the abnormalities and agriculture, as well as a possible link to atrazine, a common herbicide. But the Yale study found that intersex frogs were more concentrated in suburban and urban areas.
Dr. Skelly's study, presented at a seminar at the University of Connecticut, is being submitted for publication. He looked at a common amphibian, the green frog, what he called the "Look, Mom, I found a frog" frog. He analyzed the landscapes within the Connecticut River Valley, where abnormalities were more likely to be found.
In 2006, a Geological Survey study of small-mouth bass in the Upper Potomac Basin found that male fish from the most densely inhabited and farmed sites had the greatest likelihood of having immature eggs in the testes. This year, scientists from the agency identified chemicals present in the effluent discharged in the areas where the abnormalities were found.
"Looking upstream and downstream from wastewater-treatment plants, we see there's obviously been an impact by some of the chemicals discharged in the wastewater," said Vicki S. Blazer, an author of the Geological Survey study. "Things like pesticides, herbicides and flame retardants."
She added that although the Potomac Basin study did not measure high levels of estrogen in the water, either from pharmaceutical waste or other sources, "that's certainly a concern."
The research was in part drawn up to identify endocrine disruptors, or compounds that can interfere with reproductive hormones.
It focused on specific chemicals, including atrazine, a herbicide used in agriculture and on suburban lawns and gardens, and chemicals used to give fragrance to soap and cosmetics.
The latest Geological Survey study, while suggesting possible links, did not directly correlate the prevalence of intersex fish and the presence of these chemicals in wastewater, Dr. Blazer said. The effects of those chemicals remain unclear.
A study in 2002 led by Tyrone B. Hayes at Berkeley found that leopard frogs exposed to atrazine in the laboratory had retarded testicular development and, in some cases, immature eggs in the testes.
Atrazine, manufactured by Syngenta of Basel, Switzerland, had the Environmental Protection Agency renew its approval in 2003. At the request of the agency, Syngenta has been studying atrazine levels in some watersheds. The European Union has banned it.
The environmental agency and the company have been criticized by environmental groups that contend atrazine is harmful to fish and amphibians and may have consequences for other species. The company says the chemical is safe.
Asked what might have caused the reproductive changes found in the new Yale study, Dr. Skelly said, "I don't know."
He noted that many suburban areas in his survey used septic systems and that there had been scant investigation of the chemicals or pharmaceutical residue in them or the likelihood of leaching into streams or ponds. Suburban areas are also associated with using herbicides and pesticides.
In contrast to the Geological Survey study, which implicated agricultural runoff, the frog study found that the more agricultural an area, the lower the rate of abnormalities.
In an interview, Dr. Skelly said of the intersex phenomenon: "This is the first evidence that I think anyone has provided that agriculture is doing anything but pushing those rates higher. I wouldn't say it's definitive by any means, but it's certainly not part of the choir.
"I wouldn't want to go out and tell the world that converting landscapes to agriculture is going to prevent us from facing risks from agricultural contaminants. What we found in most of the agricultural ponds we sampled was no evidence of reproductive deformity."
Dr. Skelly divided his survey into undeveloped, agricultural, suburban and rural components, based on frogs collected from 23 ponds. That was out of 6,000 ponds surveyed and 136 visited in the Connecticut River Valley.
Of the 233 frogs whose reproductive organs were analyzed, 13 percent had abnormalities.
In urban areas, 18 percent of the collected frogs were intersex; in suburban areas 21 percent. Just 7 percent of the frogs from agricultural areas were intersex.
The more suburban the land cover, Dr. Skelly said, the more likely were abnormalities. Frogs from undeveloped, often forested areas showed no intersex traits.
The question of the reproductive health of intersex fish is one that Dr. Blazer said she returned to in a follow-up to her 2006 study.
"We know the intersex males produce sperm," she said. "The question is whether the sperm is as good" as the sperm of normal males.
So far, she said, the sperm of the intersex males has shown some decrease in the ability for self-propulsion, but the males remain able to reproduce.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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From: Dow Jones Newswire
THE FIFTEEN MINUTE TIP: SIZING UP YOUR CARBON
By Jennifer Openshaw
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Go green. It's in the news all the time now. Reduce global warming, save the planet, do the right thing. But how -- and how much? New carbon-footprint measures help you know.
Carbon dioxide. Otherwise known as CO2, or "greenhouse gas," it's the main byproduct of burning fossil fuels and the main culprit in global warming and climate change.
Some climate scientists say that if we don't cut our emissions in half by 2050, we face an outcome that makes the end-of-the-world movies "I Am Legend" and "Children of Men" look like Tom and Jerry cartoons. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little.....
Someday you'll have to ...
Your "carbon footprint" represents the amount of CO2 you emit in daily life -- driving, living at home, traveling, eating and so forth.
That's important. Right now, carbon footprints signal your contribution to the problem. Beyond that, they give an idea of how much energy you consume. That has obvious financial implications, and we're running out of the stuff.
And I expect someday, somehow we'll all have to pay directly for our carbon footprints -- through a tax or through so-called "cap and trade" programs that force the most serious polluters to pay more for the privilege. I don't know how it's going to happen, but I bet it does happen.
Measuring your footprints
There's a growing set of Web-based calculators to help you easily and quickly determine -- and interpret -- your carbon footprint. I checked out a few.
The best I found wasn't where I thought it would be -- it was at an oil company Web site! Specifically, it's on BP.com's "Environment and Society" page. Visit the site
Here's why I liked it, and what I found out: Complete picture
. BP's calculator gives you tons ("tonnes") of CO2 emitted per year from household energy use, ground travel, air travel and waste production. It then asks questions about your home, personal and business travel Realistic
. BP's site isn't just about energy consuming devices -- it's about behavior too. Like many calculators, BP asks if you have compact fluorescent bulbs. But it also asks if you turn off lights or take showers instead of baths! I found out that I save a ton of CO2 each year just by turning off lights when I leave a room. Interactive
. The site gives you a chart diagramming CO2 emissions in the four categories noted above. Each time you answer a question, you can see the chart change. It's pretty cool to know how every aspect of your life affects emissions. If I traded my SUV for an ordinary car, I'd save 2.5 tons of emissions at 12,000 miles per year. As we'll learn in a minute, that's about 10% of my total.
Unfortunately, I'm above average. With a detached home, family, 2 cars and 10 round-trip long-haul business trips a year, I'm responsible for 24 tons of CO2 emissions. How bad is that? The average U.S. family emits 18.58 tons. And they also mention that would fill about 2 1/2 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Good thing I didn't tell it how often I really travel by air....
Taking lighter footsteps
Clearly, we have shared responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases.
And I'm no dummy -- I know most of this CO2 starts life as petroleum- based fuels, which cost a lot of money and have all kinds of other bad effects both political and environmental.
Hats off to those making it easy to learn the effects of my ways. And making it easier to do something about it.
It's worth 15 minutes of your time to do the same.
Peter Sander contributed to this article.
Jennifer Openshaw is the author of "The Millionaire Zone" and CEO of Openshaw's Family Financial Network. She hosts ABC Radio's Winning Advice and serves as an adviser to some of America's top corporations.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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From: Chemical & Engineering News
By Rachel Petkewich
Arizona State University researchers have found that socks impregnated with odor-fighting silver nanoparticles release the nanoparticles when washed. This study, the first to examine how nanoparticles are released from commercially available clothing raises concerns about silver particles leaching into wastewater and the environment.
Troy M. Benn, a graduate student at ASU, presented these results in the Division of Environmental Chemistry at this week's ACS national meeting in New Orleans. Details of the work, which Benn carried out with ASU professor of civil and environmental engineering Paul Westerhoff, will soon appear in Environmental Science & Technology.
Various nanoparticles are increasingly used to make clothing free of wrinkles and resistant to stains, but little is known about what happens to nanoparticles in the laundry. The study is significant because it examines whether such products release nanoparticles during use, Mark R. Wiesner, an environmental engineer at Duke University, said.
Benn and Westerhoff reasoned that the sock manufacturing process may control how much silver is released during washing because the amounts varied widely among the socks they tested.
Juan P. Hinestroza, assistant professor of fiber science at Cornell University, agrees. He said the varying amounts and morphologies of the silver released are indeed functions of different processes used to deposit the silver onto the textile material and the properties of the textile substrate. He hopes this study will motivate scientists to develop synthetic routes that take advantage of the properties of silver nanoparticles in textiles while preventing leaching into wastewater streams.
The ASU researchers shook six brands of socks each in one-half liter of distilled water with no detergent for one hour and then analyzed the effluent with electron microscopy. The socks contained up to 1,360 micrograms of silver per gram of socks, and released as much as 650 micrograms of silver as both ionic and colloidal forms. "In the environment, both ionic and nanosilver exhibit adverse effects to aquatic organisms, although through what appears to be different biological mechanisms," Westerhoff said.
The ASU researchers' model indicated that both kinds of silver would be trapped in biosolids in wastewater treatment facilities. They said increased use of nanoproducts could produce increased amounts of silver in these biosolids, which could limit the use of such biosolids as agricultural fertilizer. Benn added that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't currently regulate silver levels in biosolids from wastewater treatment but does, for example, list maximum concentrations for drinking water. And in 2006, EPA officials announced that the agency would begin regulating as a pesticide the silver ions released in a washing machine that are intended to kill bacteria (C&EN, Dec. 4, 2006, page 14).
Copyright 2008 American Chemical Society
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From: New York Times
IN JUSTICE SHIFT, CORPORATE DEALS REPLACE TRIALS
By Eric Lichtblau
In 2005, federal authorities concluded that a Monsanto consultant had visited the home of an Indonesian official and, with the approval of a senior company executive, handed over an envelope stuffed with hundred-dollar bills. The money was meant as a bribe to win looser environmental regulations for Monsanto's cotton crops, according to a court document. Monsanto was also caught concealing the bribe with fake invoices.
A few years earlier, in the age of Enron, these kinds of charges would probably have resulted in a criminal indictment. Instead, Monsanto was allowed to pay $1 million and avoid criminal prosecution by entering into a monitoring agreement with the Justice Department.
In a major shift of policy, the Justice Department, once known for taking down giant corporations, including the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, has put off prosecuting more than 50 companies suspected of wrongdoing over the last three years.
Instead, many companies, from boutique outfits to immense corporations like American Express, have avoided the cost and stigma of defending themselves against criminal charges with a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, which allows the government to collect fines and appoint an outside monitor to impose internal reforms without going through a trial. In many cases, the name of the monitor and the details of the agreement are kept secret.
Deferred prosecutions have become a favorite tool of the Bush administration. But some legal experts now wonder if the policy shift has led companies, in particular financial institutions now under investigation for their roles in the subprime mortgage debacle, to test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws.
Firms have readily agreed to the deferred prosecutions, said Vikramaditya S. Khanna, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has studied their use, because "clearly it avoids a bigger headache for them."
Some lawyers suggest that companies may be willing to take more risks because they know that, if they are caught, the chances of getting a deferred prosecution are good. "Some companies may bear the risk" of legally questionable business practices if they believe they can cut a deal to defer their prosecution indefinitely, Mr. Khanna said.
Legal experts say the tactic may have sent the wrong signal to corporations -- the promise, in effect, of a get-out-of-jail-free card. The growing use of deferred prosecutions also suggests one road map the Justice Department might follow in the subprime mortgage investigations.
Deferred prosecution agreements, or D.P.A.'s, have become controversial because of a medical supply company's agreement to pay up to $52 million to the consulting firm of John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, as an outside monitor to avoid criminal prosecution. That agreement has prompted Congressional inquiries and calls for stricter guidelines.
Defenders of deferred prosecutions say that they have been too harshly criticized lately and that they play a crucial role in allowing the government to secure the cooperation of a company while avoiding the time, expense and uncertainty of a trial. The agreements, government officials say, also avoid the type of companywide havoc seen most acutely in the case of Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that was shuttered in 2002 after being indicted in the Enron scandal. The firm's collapse threw 28,000 employees out of work.
At a Congressional hearing last month, Mr. Ashcroft defended the agreements, saying that they avoided "destroying entire corporations" through criminal indictments. "Prosecutors understand that a corporate indictment can be a corporate death sentence," he said. "A deferred prosecution can avoid the catastrophic collateral consequences and costs that are associated with corporate conviction."
Paul J. McNulty, a former deputy attorney general who put new guidelines in place in 2006 for corporate investigations at the Justice Department, said in an interview, "There's a fundamental misapprehension with D.P.A.'s to think that they're a break for the company."
With the imposition of fines and an outside monitor, "the reality is that for the government, it gets pretty much everything without the difficulty of going forward with an indictment," said Mr. McNulty, who is now in private practice. "I think companies are beginning to wonder whether they ought to fight more, because they are pretty burdensome."
But critics of the agreements question that assertion. Charles Intriago, a former federal prosecutor in Miami who specializes in money-laundering issues, said that huge penalties, like the $65 million fine for American Express Bank International in 2007, were "peanuts" compared with the damage posed by a criminal conviction. The company was accused of failing to enact internal controls to guard against laundering of drug money and other reporting problems.
The agreements were once rare, but their use has skyrocketed in the current administration, with 35 deals last year alone by the Justice Department, lawyers who follow the trend said. Banks, financial service companies and auditors have frequently entered into such agreements, including recent ones involving Merrill Lynch, the Bank of New York, AmSouth Bank, KPMG and others. Beyond financial crimes, deferred agreements have been used in lieu of prosecuting companies -- though not individuals -- for export control violations, obscenity violations, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, kickbacks and environmental violations.
In general, such agreements result in companies acknowledging wrongdoing by not contesting criminal charges, but without formally admitting guilt. Most agreements end after two or three years with the charges permanently dismissed.
Monsanto, for example, while not admitting guilt, agreed to abstain from further violations of bribery laws. In an e-mail message, Lori Fisher, a spokeswoman, said that Monsanto had cooperated with the Justice Department and fully complied with the agreement, leading to deferred charges being permanently dismissed in early March.
The trend has led to increased speculation about how the Justice Department might use the agreements in investigations against financial companies in the mortgage lending scandal, which has become a top law enforcement priority for the department as the economy has withered.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has 17 open inquiries into accusations of corporate fraud in connection with the subprime scandal, and Neil Power, who leads the bureau's economics crime unit, said in an interview that the number was certain to grow. The F.B.I. has publicly identified only one target -- the Doral Financial Corporation, a mortgage company based in Puerto Rico whose former treasurer has already been indicted -- but major companies like Countrywide Financial, once the nation's biggest mortgage lender, have also been reported to be under criminal investigation.
Mr. Power said the investigations were a reflection of the "environment of greed" that allowed companies to package mortgages into securities they sold to investors without sufficient documentation of the borrower's ability to repay. One line of criminal inquiry focuses on whether bond companies gave accurate information to investors.
"What we're looking at," he said, "is the fact that they may be performing accounting fraud."
Justice Department officials would not discuss the role that deferred prosecution agreements may play in their ultimate handling of the mortgage investigations. One official said it was "way too early" to begin speculating about such possibilities.
But the prospect already has some experts in the field worried.
Michael McDonald, a former Internal Revenue Service investigator in Miami who is a private consultant and has given seminars on deferred prosecutions, said such deals "should not be on the board" in the subprime mortgage investigations.
"In light of what this did to our economy, people shouldn't just be able to write a check and walk away," Mr. McDonald said. "People should be prosecuted for it and go to jail."
Timothy Dickinson, a lawyer in Washington who was the outside monitor for Monsanto, agreed. Corporate lenders caught up in the mortgage scandals should not assume they will be given the chance for a deferred prosecution, Mr. Dickinson said, and the Justice Department should "insist on a guilty plea" rather than offering a deal.
"It's a tool that will remain to be used by prosecutors in appropriate circumstances, but not every circumstance," he said. "It depends how egregious the conduct is."
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